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The Universal Wilayat

imam ali (a.s)- flower

It seems necessary to explain the fourth dimension of the wilayat in more detail for the benefit of the readers.

The fourth dimension is the universal authority that the Prophet and the import have been vested with by the Almighty Allah. It is an authority that makes it possible for the wali to exercise his power over everything that exists. In the words of Ayatullah al-Khumeini, "It is a vicegerency pertaining to the whole of creation, by virtue of which all the atoms in the universe humble themselves before the holder of authority."

This authority of the chosen servants of Allah is totally dependent on His discretion and power. It should not be seen in the horizonal form but in the vertical form vis-à-vis the power of Almighty Allah. As long as we maintain the vertical hierarchy of the power, we have safeguarded the tawhid (unity and oneness) of Allah.

For example, all Muslims believe that it is Allah who gives life and death to the people. The Qur’an itself says,

"Allah takes the souls at the time of their death." (39:42)

But at the same time, the Qur’an also attributes death to the angels by saying,

"Say: It is the angel of death (who is given charge of you) who shall cause you to die." (32:11)

If you place the imports of these two verses side-by-side (i.e., horizontal form), then you are guilty of shirk, polytheism; but if you place them in the vertical form (with the power of the angels beneath and dependent upon the power of Allah), then you have safeguarded the tawhid.

Similarly, if we place the power and authority of the Prophets and the Imams in the vertical form (with the conviction that their power is beneath and dependent upon the power of Allah), then we have safeguarded the tawhid as well as the status of the chosen servants of Allah.

The Qur’an gives various examples of the persons who had been given the authority on the universe.

1. Describing the powers that Allah, subhanahu wa ta'ala, had given to Prophet 'Isa bin Maryam (A.s), the Qur’an quotes him as follows:

"I make out of the clay the form of a bird, then I breathe into it and it becomes a [real, living, flying] bird with Allah's permission;

I heal the blind and the leprous; and I bring the dead back to life with Allah's permission; and I inform you of what you are eating and what you store in your houses..." (3:48)

2. Describing the powers given to Prophet Suleiman, the Qur’an says:

"Then We made the wind subservient to him; it blew by his command gently to wherever he desired.

And (We also made subservient to him) the jinn: each (of them as) builder and diver, and others fettered in chains.

This is Our gift, therefore give freely or withhold, without reckoning. Most surely he had a nearness to us and an excellent resort." (38:36-40) also (21:81-82)

3. Describing the power of asif bin Barkhiya, the vizier of Prophet Suleiman, the Qur’an describes the scene of the moments before the Queen of Sheba and her entourage came to visit him:

"He (Suleiman) said, 'O Chiefs! which one of you can bring to me her (i.e., Queen of Sheba's) throne before they come to me in submission.'

One audacious among the jinn said, 'I will bring it to you before you rise from your place; and most surely I am strong and trustworthy for it.'

(But) one who had the knowledge of some of the Book said, 'I will bring it to you in the twinkling of an eye.' Then when he saw it (i.e., the throne) settled beside him, he said, 'This is the grace of my Lord that He may try me whether I am grateful or ungrateful...'" (27:38-40)

In these three examples from the Qur’an, we see that Almighty Allah had blessed some of his chosen servants with the power to breathe life to a shape of an animal, to bring the dead back to life, to cure the blind and the leprous, to subjugate the jinn for their work, to bring an item from far away in the twinkling of an eye, etc. These examples are sufficient to show that such powers can be given and have been given by Allah to those whom He likes. It is this power that is referred to in Shia theology as "al-wilayah at-takwiniyya - the power over the universe or the universal authority."

Allah has given various ranks to the prophets and messengers (2:253 ; (17:55) , and all Muslims are unanimous in believing that the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad al-Mustafa, is higher in rank than all the prophets and messengers.[101]

 All prophets and messengers had come to prepare their societies for the acceptance of the final and universal Messenger of God, Muhammad (PBUH). If prophets like Suleiman, Dawud, 'Isa, and Musa, and also Suleiman’s vizier, asif, were blessed with powers over the nature, then it follows by necessity that Prophet Muhammad must have been blessed with greater power over the universe. Two examples have been clearly mentioned in the Qur’an. The ability of the Prophet of Islam to travel into space and beyond with his human body ( 17:1 ; 53:5-18 ), and the parting of the moon by pointing towards it with his finger ( 54:1 ).[102]

Imam 'Ali and the other Imams of Ahl-ul-Bayt are believed by the Shias to be higher in rank than all prophets and messengers except the Prophet of Islam (PBUh).[103] It follows as a necessity that they also have the powers that the Prophet had been blessed with by Almighty Allah.

At this point, I will only refer to one verse from the holy Qur’an on this issue. During the early days in Mecca, when the idol worshippers were rejecting the claim of the Prophet, Allۆپh revealed a verse to console him by saying:

"And those who disbelieve say, 'You are not a messenger.' Say, 'Allah is sufficient as a witness (between me and you) and the one who has knowledge of the Book.'" (13:43)

Prophet Muhammad is being consoled that it doesn't matter if the idolaters do not believe in your claim; it is sufficient that Allah and 'the one who has knowledge of the Book' are witnesses to the truth of your claim. Whom is Allah referring to as a witness to the truth of the Prophet's claim? Who is this person 'who has knowledge of the Book'? According to Shia reports, supported by Sunni sources, it refers to 'Ali bin Abi Talib.[104] There was definitely no one among the companions of the Prophet who could claim that he had more knowledge about Islam than 'Ali bin Abi Talib.

How does the description "having knowledge of the Book" prove the universal authority for 'Ali? If you recall, asif Barkhiya, Suleiman's vizier, had so much power over nature that he could bring the throne of the Queen of Sheba before the "twinkling of an eye". asif has been described as someone who had "'ilmun min al-kitab - knowledge of a portion of the Book," not "the knowledge of the entire Book." In comparison to this, Imam 'Ali has been described by Allah as someone who had "'ilmu 'l-kitۆپb - knowledge of the Book," not just a portion of the Book. Therefore, it is not difficult to conclude that the power of Imam 'Ali over nature must be many degrees greater than that of asif Barkhiya who brought the throne from far away before the "twinkling of an eye".

Again, as an important reminder, I must state that this belief is to be held in the vertical form vis-à-vis the power of Almighty Allah, and only in that format can we preserve the concept of tawhأ‌d in which Allۆپh is the Absolute Power and source of all power. It is to remind us of the total dependency of the chosen ones upon Allah's will and power that He commands the Prophet to say, "I do not control any benefit or harm for myself except as Allah pleases." (7:188) This is not a denial of having power; it is affirmation of the belief that whatever power he has is according to the wish and pleasure of Almighty Allah.


[1] As-Sadq, I'tiqadat, p. 92-93; in its English translation, The Shi'ite Creed, p. 84-85; al-Majlisi, "Risala fi 'l-I'tiqadat," p. 310.

[2] On parting of the moon, see in Shi'a sources, at-Tabrasi, Majma'u 'l-Bayan, vol. 5, p. 186; at-Tabataba'i, al-Mizan fi Tafsiri 'l-Qur’an, vol. 19, p. 60-72 who also refutes the objections raised by the materialist minded Muslims who like to interpret all such verses in metaphorical sense. In Sunni sources, see al-Fakhr ar-Razi, at-Tafsiru 'l-Kabir, vol. 15, p. 26; as-Suyti, ad-Durru 'l-Manthr, vol. 6, p. 133; Mawddi, Tafhأ‌mu 'l-Qur’an, vol. 5, p. 230-231.

[3] As-Sadq, I'tiqadat, p. 92-93; in its English translation, The Shi'ite Creed, p. 84-85; al-Majlisi, "Risala fi 'l-I'tiqadat," p. 310.

[4] Among Sunni references, see Ibn al-Maghazili ash-Shafi'أ‌, Manaqib al-Imam 'Ali bin Abأ‌ Talib, p. 313 (hadith # 358); as-Suyti, ad-Durru 'l-Manthr, vol. 4 (Beirut: Dar al-Fikr, n.d.) p. 669; al-Qandzi, Yanabi'u 'l-Muwaddah (Beirut:, 1390/1970) p. 121. For further references, see ash-Shahid at-Tustari, Ihqaqu 'l-Haqq, vol. 3, p. 280, vol. 14, p. 362-365, vol. 20, p. 75-77. For a critical review of the counter reports cited by some Sunni scholars, see at-Tabataba'i, al-Mizan, vol. 11, p. 423-428.

Taken from the book:  Shiism,Imamate & Wilayat

By Seyyed Muhammad Rizvi

Other links:

The Cause of the Separation of the Shiite Minority from the Sunni Majority

    The Two Problems of Succession and Authority in Religious Sciences

    The Caliphate of Imam Ali (A.S) and His Method of Rule (Part 1)

    The Caliphate of Imam Ali (A.S) and His Method of Rule (Part 2)

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